Nothing sparks gratitude in my heart like a free gift. Well, maybe not just any free gift.
Lots of things are given away because people don’t want them — take a look at your local Goodwill drop-off station.
Then there are those gifts that seem free but you know they have a hidden price — “favors” offered that you know are going to haunt you with a bad case of moral superiority, or a big request coming back at you.
But when someone volunteers to give you what you really need for free? Flat out amazing.
In 1656 English Puritan John Beadle was talking about generous gifts when he said we should write down our memories of
What noble … bountiful Benefactor we have had, by whose cost and kindnesse our good education hath been furthered, and our comfortable maintenance enlarged.
This was in The Journal or Diary of a Thankful Christian, the first book on keeping a journal as a spiritual discipline — a form of prayer really. I’ve been posting about his book over the past few weeks.
He must have known how hard it is for many Christians to take up journaling. He provided a whole chapter full of topics to get us started. I want to highlight just this one today. (You can read more about it in my book, Kneeling with Giants: Learning to Pray with History’s Best Teachers.)
“Why are you writing about this old book?” you may ask. Because it shows the way to a life of gratitude.
- No other single attitude will do more to build trust in God — and joy.
- There is no better help toward learning to live as a Christian in a greedy world.
We need all the help we can get to live out of great big gratitude for the amazing gift of Jesus himself. I suspect that learning to be consciously grateful for smaller practical gifts of grace will help us get there.
Beadle was thinking of the people whose gracious financial gifts provide our education. We can write in our journals about
- parents who paid tuition bills
- donors who endowed scholarships
- taxpayers who underwrote loans and built schools.
My mind runs to other kinds of generous gifts that help us on our way vocationally, especially in the writing life:
I heard a man tell about trying to publish his first novel. He turned a corner when he met a well-established author who volunteered to read his manuscript — and later introduced him to her agent.
When I was seeking a publisher for my first book, Mark Labberton, a friend who had previously published with InterVarsity, spoke a good word to his editor for me — and that made an huge difference.
Lots of gifts of grace happen here in the blogosphere — like Chad R. Allen volunteering to coach me through the writing of a book proposal.
When people tell these stories you can hear the humble gratitude in their voices. If we tell the stories in our journals, with only ourselves and God listening, God will hear that gratitude — and the quiet smile of thankfulness will be there for a good long while for all to see.
I hope you’ll spend some time journaling about someone who became your benefactor — and if you are willing to share one such person in the comments I’d love to hear!’
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